Christopher Wheeldon
Choreographer; Artistic Director & Co-Founder, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company

Experiencing Dance in New York

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Once the dance of the French Royal Court, ballet is no longer bourgeois.

Christopher Wheeldon

Internationally acclaimed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. A former dancer with The Royal Ballet and soloist with New York City Ballet (where he served as Resident Choreographer from 2001 to 2008), Wheeldon founded Morphoses in 2007 with the goal of introducing a new spirit of innovation to classical ballet by fostering collaboration among choreographers, dancers, visual artists, designers, composers, and others who can bring new life and perspective to ballet.

Born in Yeovil, Somerset, England, Wheeldon began his ballet training at eight years old and began studying at The Royal Ballet School at eleven. Wheeldon joined The Royal Ballet in 1991 and won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne competition that year. In 1993, Wheeldon was invited to become a member of New York City Ballet, where he was promoted to soloist in 1998. Wheeldon choreographed his first work for NYCB, Slavonic Dances, for the 1997 Diamond Project and, in collaboration with artist Ian Falconer, created Scènes de Ballet for the School of American Ballet's 1999 Workshop Performances and NYCB's 50th anniversary season.

Wheeldon was the recipient of the Dance Magazine Award and the London Critics' Circle Award for Best New Ballet for Polyphonia in 2005; a performance of the work by NYCB dancers received the Olivier Award. In 2006, DGV (Danse à Grande Vitesse) was nominated for an Olivier Award. Additional honors include the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center and the American Choreography Award.


Wheeldon: Well, there are a lot of, I mean, here in New York, if you want to go see dance, there are a lot of free dance events around the city. Coming up in the summer, there’s all the events that go on in the city parks. There’s a lot of dance that can be seen, you know, all over the city. There are, one of the things that we’re trying to do at Morphosis is also open it up to make it more accessible. One of the problems with dance is that it can be quite expensive to go. City Center have a great program called The Dance, which comes up in the Autumn, and I think it’s something like ten dollars a ticket, and you go, and you see in an evening all sorts of different bits and pieces from all over the world pulled in. You can see, last year Morphosis was involved. This year we aren’t because we’re away on tour, but you can see, you know, Hofesh Shechter, the guy that I was talking about before. You can see Ohad Naharin, you can see William Forsythe, you can see Paul Taylor, you can Mark Morris, all the great, all the things that are really happening in dance right now come in to The Dance, and I’m not sure, I think it’s a week or two week program. You can see something different every night for ten bucks. There are ways to see dance inexpensively in New York City. The big theaters like New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theater, they have last minute deals, they have student deals. It’s just kind of finding out about them that’s difficult, because dance isn’t often publicized in places where kids or young people look. You know, there’s not enough of it on the internet. There’s not enough of it in the kind of magazines that kids are reading. And then, as far as Morphosis is concerned, we’re about to launch a website, which is really exciting, and we’re hoping that that will start to include things like I just bought this crazy little contraption, which is actually like a head cam that you can strap on, so there will be things on the website eventually like, you know, follow Chris Wheeldon around for a day, and see what’s going on with Morphosis in Vale, and we’ll have, we’ve got film clips. We’ll have obviously all the announcements of our season coming up. Hopefully we’ll start doing postcards, interviews with the dancers, little short items on what will be included in our performances, so you can go online and kind of get a head’s up on what it is that they’re going to come and see. So, yeah, there’s that, and then of course we have our season in Vale, in Colorado, in August, and then we go to London for a week, and then we’re here in New York at City Center the first week of October. And we’ll have hopefully again another free open dress rehearsal, like we did last year, which ended up being a really fantastic event where I rehearsed the dancers on stage, and interacted a little bit with the audience, sort of talked them through how they get put together, and when I tell this dancer to do this, exactly what that means. So that can be a pretty informative way of getting into the ballet world.

Recorded on: 5/22/08